Jehovah’s Witnesses Banned in Russia

Activities of Jehovah's Witnesses no longer allowed in Russia

Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer allowed in Russia

Jehovah’s Witnesses, a pacifist religious organization, has been labeled by Russian authorities an “extremist group” and all of its activities are banned. All local chapters and its Russian headquarters have been ordered to close and the government is authorized to seize the group’s property. Their international website is blocked and Russian state media now refer to the group as a cult.

Under the ban, distributing copies of the Watchtower (the group’s magazine), discussing their beliefs in public, door-to-door evangelizing, or worshipping at a meeting hall are criminal activities which are punishable by a fine of several thousand dollars and six to ten years in prison. Jehovah’s Witnesses have 170,000 followers and 395 meeting halls in Russia.

The group has been portrayed in Russia for a long time as one that destroys families and spreads hatred. In February, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia were labeled “extremists” and locked out of their offices. In March, the government suspended Jehovah’s Witnesses activities. During a 30 hour trial in April, a lawyer for Russia’s justice ministry told the Russian Supreme Court that Jehovah’s Witnesses posed a threat to the rights of citizens, the public order, and public security; the lawyer also said the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ opposition to blood transfusions violated Russian health care laws. Russia’s Supreme Court then banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating in the country.

A spokesperson for Jehovah’ Witnesses said in a statement: “We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity. We will appeal this decision, and we hope that our legal rights and protections as a peaceful religious group will be fully restored as soon as possible.”

The religious organization has 30 days to appeal to a three-person panel at the Supreme Court, and if the ruling is upheld, they say they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

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